The previous quote is absolutely not mine as I pursed it from the timeless poem, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost and this snippet explains the journey that I am about to share with you so well.
I don’t know if everyone works the same way and when I am writing a blog post, an article or just about anything, I just riff and let the thoughts come and write whatever my heart and mind are telling me to write. Admittedly so, it took me a long time to be able to write what my heart and mind were telling me to write as I was so worried for so long about coming off too strong, being too weird and being ridiculed for my writing and/or beliefs that I constantly had stopped myself from writing anything and sure as hell didn’t voice my opinion on most topics.
Ironically enough, for those who knew me when I was a teenager and in college, I rarely if ever voiced my opinion on anything as I didn’t want to be controversial, I didn’t want to upset people, I didn’t want to offend people, I didn’t want to be seen as a loser and mostly because I did not have confidence in myself. Writing has been one of my greatest forms of self-expression and has helped me to be able to communicate things that scared me, things that I couldn’t vocalize and emotions that I was too scared to talk about.
Life is interesting in this way as I don’t think that I would have been able to write so well and express my thoughts, views, emotions, feelings and opinions so well if it were not for meeting Tatum Fjerstad at the 2014 Mont Tremblant Wanderlust Festival during a writing class that she was leading. I hadn’t written anything in my life other than papers for school and I had never even journaled before taking this class and the space was setup for us to write about whatever was on our minds and so I did. And I got the opportunity to share many of the things that I wrote about since it was a small group and we were asked to share.
The other participants in this class thought that my writing was funny and they felt like I could tell a good story, so after the class ended I approached Tatum, but approached her to discuss the lack of sustainability efforts at the Mont Tremblant Wanderlust Festival and not my writing. During that festival, I working in sustainability and proposed the ideas of helping Wanderlust with its sustainability efforts at their festivals and to discuss the opportunity to leading a speakeasy on sustainability. Tatum gave me the name of the person whom I could speak to about leading a speakeasy and after she did this she asked me if I would be interested in writing for Wanderlust as she just launched their media division and was interested in having a sustainability expert join the writing team. I told Tatum that I would be open to that and she asked me to send her two writing samples at some point in the next two weeks.
When I returned to New York, an obvious problem arose — I had no idea what a writing sample was or even where to begin — so I looked up writing samples online and submitted two writing samples. Tatum got back to me shortly after she received my writing samples and told me that she would like me to write for Wanderlust and I was shocked because I did not think that my writing samples were very good. A few weeks later I pitched my first article about sustainability and I was so intimidated writing it. I had written so many run-on sentences and truly felt like I had nothing to offer in the piece, but I submitted it anyway.
By my third article, I was still writing with run-on sentences and struggling to get what I wanted to say out. So Tatum pushed me to go further within and find my voice. I was scared of doing so and I took on the assignment and was finally able to bring my passion for sustainability to this piece. I resubmitted the article and Tatum was thrilled because I found my voice and wrote a kick-ass piece.
I ended up writing another 20+ articles for Wanderlust and became their trusted sustainability writer. I even wrote a number of articles which had nothing to do with sustainability, articles where I exposed my heart in some pieces, and truly found my ability to express myself through writing. I was shocked as I had struggled to express myself throughout my life.
Through writing I learned how to vocalize my feelings, I learned how to put my passion down on paper and I learned how to connect with people on a deeper level. I came in to this life assignment with no perception, concept or idea that any of these things would be possible through writing and I walked away with a brand new ability to communicate. So if you are thinking of writing for yourself, to promote your business or to share your opinions, I recommend that you take the road less traveled and start because you never know where it may lead you.
Owning a business has been powerful for me in ways that I did not imagine. One of the ways that owning a business has been powerful for me is that I have recently realized that I downplay my accomplishments A LOT. And there is a huge cost of downplaying my accomplishments.
The cost of downplaying my accomplishments lies in convincing myself that I haven’t really done anything in my past jobs, that I haven’t accomplished anything of substance for my clients and that I really haven’t done anything special at all. Which then plays itself out in the form of, well since I haven’t really done anything special why should someone hire me.
I saw this in full force today when I was applying for jobs — yes I am doing this and yes Pure Love Sustainability Inc. is still in business — I started focused my job application efforts on Senior HR positions because I just got selected to interview for a really high-level role with a great company in Boise. The position perfectly matches my diverse skills and helps me realize my goal of helping company be successful by building strong, independent, highly-skilled employees. So I started looking at other high level HR positions today and saw a position that I would be great at because I have done so much of the work that is required and then realized that my resume doesn’t even mention any of the work that I have done that speaks to this role.
I took deep look within and saw that I haven’t put some of the amazing organizational change work that I have done, the work creating a legitimate hiring process at a company that had no process, creating legitimate documentations of the companies processes, the work that I did designing department training manuals for 8 different departments, the work that I did in creating 1, 3, and 5 year employee pay scales and the work that I did creating an employee profit-sharing program wasn’t even on my resume. And it wasn’t on my resume because I got laid off from my position because the company was struggling to meet its financial obligations and needed to shed salary and because I did not succeed at everything that I did, I told myself that I failed.
Then I realized that I had done this work, that I did not fail and that I have so much more to offer than what my mind tells me that I have to offer. So I started to write down all of the work that I did for the organizational change project and I wrote an entire paragraph highlighting the work that I did in this role. I felt so free, I felt so accomplished and I realized that I have to stop downplaying the work that I did because it serves no one — least of all myself.
I then realized that I have been doing this in my business. I have been too scared to approach CEO’s and company owners about the sustainability consulting services that I offer. Heck I have been too scared to even talk to people about them. When the truth of the matter is that I have helped over 60 clients divert 5,000 tons of food waste from the landfill. I have helped my clients save tens of thousands of dollars a month on their waste hauling costs and I have stopped 400 gigatons of carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere through the sustainability work that I have done.
And I’m going to stop keeping the results that I’ve produced buried deep down within because I wasn’t perfect and didn’t accomplish the insanely lofty goals that I have set for myself as I have done some amazing work that the world needs. I am committing to no longer downplay my accomplishments. How about yourself? What accomplishments do you downplay because you think that you failed or because you didn’t produce all of the results that you wanted to produce. I would love to hear from you so we can support each other in speaking proudly and openly about the great work that we have done.
Electricity is something we all take for granted. Like really take for granted and the process of producing electricity is complex, can involve heavy-duty equipment and takes an incredible amount of energy. The fact that it takes energy to produce energy is in itself weird and it takes tremendous amounts of heat to produce the dominant forms of electricity as power generators must reach high temperatures in order to turn coal, natural gas and nuclear waste into energy.
On the other side of the coin, solar and wind take none of the upfront energy investment to produce energy. Solar relies on photovoltaic panels that are able to capture the suns rays and turn the light energy in the suns rays into electricity. Wind power involves large wind turbines that operate on a simple principle (https://www.energy.gov/maps/how-does-wind-turbine-work). The energy in the wind turns two or three propeller-like blades around a rotor. The rotor is connected to the main shaft, which spins a generator to create electricity. On the other side of the coin, solar and wind take none of the upfront energy investment to produce energy. Wind power involves large wind turbines that operate on a simple principle. The energy in the wind turns two or three propeller-like blades around a rotor. The rotor is connected to the main shaft, which spins a generator to create electricity. On the other side of the coin, solar and wind take none of the upfront energy investment to produce energy.
Geothermal energy comes from that that is stored deeply in the earth or in hot springs. This heat is continuously produced by the decay of radioactive isotopes such as uranium, thorium, and potassium (https://globaledge.msu.edu/blog/post/55551/geothermal-and-hydroelectric-energy). Geothermal heat pump systems can heat and cool buildings and can also provide a source of hot water. Hydroelectric power is a form of energy generated by the motion of water and is converted into electricity. Hydroelectric energy is made from the constant motion of the water cycle and it is the result of solar heat and the gravitational forces from the earth. The water cycle starts with the evaporation of water and then it falls back down as rain, hail, or snow. This constant fall of water is what produces the hydroelectricity. Hydropower is fueled by water and driven by the sun, therefore; it is a sustainable fuel source (https://globaledge.msu.edu/blog/post/55551/geothermal-and-hydroelectric-energy).
Fighting for your independence. Searching for your creativity. Wanting to be the best. Seeking and finding your own path. Kind of sounds like an incarnation of the American dream, doesn’t it? It’s what we are taught as children and it’s what gets ingrained in us by work culture, social media culture and society as a whole nowadays.
In my first job, at the ripe age of 20 years old, while selling insurance and investment products to adults and being around some very successful people, I decided that who Michael Forman is was not enough. I was failing in the role, I wanted nothing more to be successful as an adult and I saw that the successful people in my company were loud, proud, confident, strong, goal-oriented, courageous and unstoppable. They worked hard, they never got thrown off track and they did whatever it took to reach their goals and provide for their families. I on the other hand was stoppable, my emotions got the best of me, fear got the best of me, I was mostly quiet because I didn’t know if I had anything worthwhile to contribute, I didn’t set goals and I surely was not proud of myself nor my accomplishments in life.
So I decided to be like the people that were around me that were so successful. I became loud, proud, confident, strong, goal-oriented, courageous and unstoppable. Anything or anyone that got in my way would be pushed out of my way. Fear was stupid and I would no longer let fear stop me from reaching my goals. I became boisterous, proud and even arrogant. I wanted to make it known that I had what it took and that I could be even better than you, do better than you and have more than you.
In this process I became an “I’m going to do it all on my own person” because nothing was going to stop nor hold me back from my goals and that also meant that no one was going to stop me or hold me back form my goals. When people didn’t want to do something that I wanted to do, I would do it only own. If you didn’t want to help me, I pushed you out of my life. If you had nothing to offer to get me towards my goals then you were out. I also took it upon myself to impose my ideas and principles on others because mine were clearly what worked and what was right and yours were clearly wrong because they did not agree with mine.
To say it bluntly, I was a monster. I had no compassion for anyone, no empathy for anyone and took no excuses nor bs from anyone. I got what I wanted – to do it all on my own – and I developed a mindset that if I can’t do it then no one can. I was not open to anyone’s help, advice, suggestions, recommendations nor support and I loved it. Truly.
I went about creating this business all on my own – I hired a business coach because I knew that a lot of fears would come up and he absolutely helped me work through them and get me on track and we spoke once a week for 1 hour at a time. Every other action that I took, I took on my own. I thought that I could build this business son my own and I was dead set to prove that I could because in my mind, anyone who could not do it alone was weak and somebody that was not worth listening to.
So I gave it my all, I generated clients, made some money, had dozens of consultations and generated a lot of opportunities for me to communicate the mission of Pure Love Sustainability Inc. and gain support for the business. It was pretty good, until it wasn’t.
On June 4th, I realized that I couldn’t continue running this business as I wasn’t making enough money and the work that I was doing to help clients create the gardens of their dreams and grow their own food had taken a toll on my body. I had no other choice, but to stop operating Pure Love Sustainability Inc as it was and to create a new business model. I was devastated as I couldn’t do it all on my own.
Over the course of the next week, I was completely defeated and felt like the biggest loser in the world. I didn’t know what to do with my life as reversing and eliminating climate change is my life’s work and mission and I realized that I can’t do it. I was distraught and wanted to write my bi-weekly newsletter, but I couldn’t get more than two sentences out. I knew that I had to share my struggles with my community and I knew that I needed support.
So I wrote my newsletter to let everyone know that I was struggling, that I was not making enough money to sustain this business, that the physical work of creating gardens had beaten my body up and that I would have to go and get a job and would be slowly recreating the mission and vision of Pure Love Sustainability Inc. I sent this message to my entire contact list and posted it on Facebook. I expected my current client to be mad at me and to demand their money back, I expected people to rail on me for quitting and I expected people to think I was a loser.
The total opposite happened – clients reached out to me saying they were so sorry that this happened and that I was struggling with my business. All of my current clients wanted me to continue working with them, one of my clients even offered to pay out of her own pocket to hire someone to do the physical labor of the job. People reached out to me that I hadn’t spoken with in years and close friends called me to make sure that I was ok. I was shocked and amazed by people’s generosity.
A few days after sending this message, I was on the phone with a friend in NY that I do some paid consulting work for and she was sharing the struggles that she is having in her business and at the end of the conversation I realized that she is trying to do it all on her own, just like me. This hit me hard and I said to myself, “Wow, I finally see that I cannot do this alone”. I knew that if I was going to keep Pure Love Sustainability Inc. alive (which I want to do) that I needed to be open to people contributing to me, contributing to the business and to people coming in and supporting me.
For the first-time in a long time, I was open to allowing others to contribute and allowing others to create with me. I had a meeting last week and am exploring the possibility of building a non-profit arm of Pure Love Sustainability Inc. that is focused on sustainability work for business, apartment complexes, property management companies and local governments and doing it in partnership with another human being! This is an idea that I have had for a while that I had no time to take action on AND I am now in action because I stopped trying to do it all on my own!
I recently attended an amazing social media marketing workshop that Road Warrior Creative lead in partnership with the Idaho Small Business Development Center and was incredibly inspired during the event to hire a brand strategist who can help me organize all of the content that I have created and the content that I want to create into a cohesive brand engagement and brand awareness strategy that can be tied into my sales and marketing strategy. I am so pumped for the future of Pure Love Sustainability Inc.
Ironically, less than 2 weeks ago, I completely considered quitting the business and I am seeing that I reached the limit of what I can do on my own. I am also seeing that creating partnerships with people and allowing others to contribute is the key to succeeding as a business and also in life. If you are struggling, I recommend that you ask for help. If you are ready to quit, reach out to someone and be open to their contributions. If you are doing it all on your own, stop. In the process of being in a relationship withy now wife, I learned that life is so much better when you are doing it with someone else and now I am also learning that running a business is so much better when you are doing it with someone else.
I want to thank all of the people in my life who have reached out recently and provided listening, ideas, suggestions and empowerment to me. In the past I would have never been so vulnerable and real with my wife (yes I’m a married man now), my friends, myself, nor my clients and everyone was great with me. Even my gardening clients. Some of whom were even willing to have me design their gardens and pay out of their pockets to hire people to do the physical work that my body cannot handle anymore.
The last two weeks have been a whirlwind and I have faced some interesting fears, disempowering beliefs and unresolved past failures, and I did the work to move past them. One of the most interesting things that came up over the last two weeks was a memory of running a 200 meter race at track meet at St. John’s University during my freshmen year of high school. I was really bad my freshmen year, one of the three worst runners on my team, to be exact and was in a race for the slow kids who actually all happened to be my teammates. I remember getting to the line and not wanting to give my all because I didn’t want to make my teammates feel bad by beating them, so I give just enough effort to not finish last and not enough effort to compete with anyone else in the race.
What I realized in this flashback was that I thought that everyone in my high school was better than me. I went to Fordham Prep, a really high-level Jesuit (Catholic) High School in the Bronx after attending public elementary and middle school in the Bronx prior to HS. For the first-time in my life I was around people outside of the friends that I grew up with and a lot of the kids at Fordham Prep were from well-off families in Westchester County (the northern suburb of NYC). We weren’t poor by any means growing up and some of these kids were mega-rich and mega-privileged and I felt so out of place because the kids at Fordham Prep lived in fancy homes in fancy neighborhoods and had access to any and everything and I told myself that everyone here is better than me.
I carried this disempowering thought with me throughout life and as an adult have at times thought that everyone around me was better than me and have worked extremely hard to make up for this perceived deficiency. It’s how I went from being the third-worst runner on my high school track team to being named captain of the team my senior year of high school and running at major invitationals against national powerhouse runners and teams my senior year go high school. I carried this over to my college running and in my sophomore year of college was keeping up with runners who would have dusted the track with me during high school, yet I never ran well in meets because I psyched myself out so badly prior to races as a result of believing that everyone on the line was better than me.
Moving into my career — at 21 years old I was the top app’t setter in my first “real” job among 25 other app’t setters in the company. In my next job, got promoted to Assistant Marketing Manager in less than a year at Whole Foods Market, which is nearly unheard of for someone with no marketing background and no prior industry experience. I have carried this on over and over again and my propensity to work harder than everyone led me to work crazy long hours in a crazy stressful job where I was helping my clients implement a food waste diversion technology that reduce the amount of food waste and the amount of carbon emissions that my clients produced. It was my dream job and the job was really stressful at times as I had 52 clients spread among 7 different states and at some level had a hand in 63 of our 71 clients in the U.S. I also mentally punished myself every time that a client issue happened and thought that the only way I could stop the issues was by working harder. I worked myself to the bone for 2.5 years and then it happened.
I was in Planet Hollywood’s kitchen in Times Square and after wrapping up a routine site visit, I reached two feet forward to grab my notebook, which I had put down during the site visit and as I was reaching forward I felt the worst pain that I have ever felt in my life in my back. The pain was so bad that I screamed in their kitchen. The entire kitchen staff ran over to me as they thought that I cut myself with a knife or got my hand caught in a piece of equipment and everyone asked me if I was ok. I said, “I didn’t cut myself or get my hand mailed by equipment and I’m not sure if I’m ok. Could you get me a bag of ice and grab me a chair in the restaurant?”. I sat for a bit and knew that I was in trouble.
I saw my Sports Medicine Doctor two weeks later and was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, a permanent condition where one of the vertebrae in my back got pushed forward. The only two reasons that she could up with for the injury was that my back was taking a lot of weight as a result of the fractured rib that I suffered in October 2015 (4 months before this injury) and stress. When I heard stress as one of the major reasons I knew that I had to quit this job and I called my boss and gave him a months notice. It was a really hard conversation and I had to do it. He honored my 1 month notice as we had done some amazing work together and when I left the job I felt like the biggest failure in the world. I saw only the failures and none of the good things that I accomplished for years.
So I went about my life as if I never even did anything great at this job and moved on. Interestingly enough, an opportunity just arose literally 2 weeks ago to go in with another sustainability company in Boise to submit an RFQ for the city’s sustainability consulting bid. I said yes, in the midst of feeling like crap for not being able to succeed in my business and we went about working on the RFQ. I told the person that I was partnering with that we should hold nothing back in our experience and I started to see all of the great work that I did. I started to realize that I did some incredible things, saved dozens of accounts, created incredible sustainability programs for clients and help day clients divert over 5,000 tons of food waste from landfill and helped my clients eliminate over 400 gigatons of carbon from reaching the atmosphere. I realized that I am an incredible sustainability consultant and have a ton to offer to businesses and the proposal started flowing from there.
I pushed myself harder than I have in years and we wrote a fantastic proposal. The City of Boise even sent us a winning sustainability bid from 2017 that we did not ask for and we saw the level of work that went into their proposal and started putting that work into our proposal. We met with a proposal expert at the Idaho Small Business Development Center who significantly helped us with our fee schedule and a few compliance pieces for the proposal and gave us a green light to submit our proposal based on the work that our businesses do, the content in our proposal and our feasibility for completing the work.
This entire process was incredible and we just turned the proposal into the city. I would love to win one of the bids in the area of climate change and sustainability planning, which we potentially are in good shape for and even if we don’t win the bid we have an amazing proposal that positions us as experts in the sustainability consulting realm and can use this proposal to submit to commercial RFP’s and other government RFP’s. I let go of feeling like everyone around me is better than me and put my all into this RFQ and this is the win.
I am present to the impact that I make as a sustainability consultant, am excited to jump back into this work and have created a new mission for Pure Love Sustainability Inc. — to reverse and eliminate climate change. It can be done and I can lead this movement. I am ready to rock and am still looking for a standard consulting, sustainability consulting, project manager or instructional design job for the time-being while I am building up Pure Love Sustainability Inc. so I can run this as a full-time business with full-time revenue and make a huge difference.
Thank you to everyone who showed up during this time, I really appreciate it and you. Thank you for believing me and helping me find the light.
Soil is more than dirt and more than just a medium that you can grow grass, vegetables, flowers and trees in. Soil is made up of multiple layers (silt, sand and clay), it is made up of many different types of organic matter (root cells, leaves, worm castings, bark, etc.), there are thousands to even millions of microorganisms in a couple of ounces of healthy soil and there are even different types of soil (fungal/acidic and bacterial/alkaline). So many factors determine whether your seeds/transplants will grow into healthy productive plants, bushes, shrubs or trees and one of the key factors that determines the success of anything that you plant is knowing whether your soil is acidic or alkaline.
Soil pH levels have a tremendous bearing on your ability to grow things. Neutral pH is 7.0 and many things can grow in a neutral environment, yet some of the things that we plant need higher pH levels to grow and some need lower pH levels to grow. Vegetables for instance, prefer neutral to alkaline soil and if you were to plant vegetables in acidic soil they will not grow. Flowers, most bushes and most trees (fruiting trees are the exception) prefer acidic soil and most flowers, bushes and trees will not grow in alkaline soil. This is why knowing your soil pH matters so much as no matter how much effort you put into growing tomatoes in a wooded area, they will not grow as the soil of a wooded area is acidic.
Knowing this, how can you figure out whether your soil is acidic or alkaline? Soil testing definitely helps and your local agricultural extension offices (New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles all have agricultural extension offices so you can find one anywhere in the U.S.) have soil sample kits that you can purchase from them and once you’ve collected your samples you can send them in and your agricultural extension office will interpret the results for you within a few weeks. You can also buy pH strips at a local garden store and get quick results.
There are also a number of ways that you can tell whether your soil is acidic or alkaline without having to run any soil tests. Soil that non-fruit bearing trees grow in will be acidic one hundred percent of the time, soil that blueberry bushes grow in will also always be acidic, soil that rose bushes or any flowering bush grows in will be acidic one hundred percent of the time. Hard, compacted soil like you find in a forest will also always be acidic. Grass on the other hand prefers natural to slightly alkaline soil, so if grass is not growing in your soil there is a good chance that your soil is acidic. Soil that has tinges of copper or gold colors (this is a good thing) will also be acidic one hundred percent of the time as woody plant materials that breakdown in the soil turn copper or gold as they are breaking down.
Checking to see if your soil is acidic or alkaline is something that all gardeners and farmers should do every year to ensure that you can successfully grow the vegetables, flowers, fruit, trees and bushes that you want to grow. If your soil is acidic and you want to grow vegetables or if your soil is alkaline and you want to grow flowers, there are ways to naturally change the acidity or alkalinity in your soil. With this said, it is very easy to make a mistake and create soils that are too acidic or too alkaline where nothing can grow, so if you want to change the pH of your soil hire an experienced gardener or farmer or call your local agricultural extension offices so you can be guided through the process.
Compost is one of the best soil amendments that you can add to your soil. High-quality, finished compost naturally adds nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous and other minerals to your soil and if your compost pile was kept outdoors you can also add key bug, bacterial, fungal and microbial life that are essentials to healthy soil. Compost is a huge win all across the board and your composting game can be taken to the next level.
Compost tea is the next level of compost. Compost tea is made through a water-based process that concentrates all of the good stuff in compost into a liquid form that you can spray straight onto your plants and field. Spraying compost tea directly onto your soil also increases root mass and protects plant surfaces because the beneficial organisms that are found in compost have been added directly to the plant that you sprayed it onto.
Compost tea can be made by grabbing a 10 gallon bucket and filling it one-third of the way with compost. Then you add filtered or dechlorinated water to the bucket until the bucket is full (water treatment plants add chlorine to water to kill microorganisms and you can dechlorinate your water by boiling it in a pan for 5 minutes). Once you have added the water, you will let the mixture of compost and water sit for 3 – 4 days. When the compost and water mixture has sat for 3 – 4 days, you will grab a piece of cheesecloth and strain the mixture through cheesecloth into another bucket (you can keep the solids and add them right back into your compost bin) , then dilute the remaining mixture with water (use 10 parts water to one part mixture) and you are ready to use the compost tea (http://www.homecompostingmadeeasy.com/composttea.html).
Compost tea can benefit any garden, farm or orchard and a number of small-scale organic flower and vegetable farmers use compost tea every spring and fall to keep their soil healthy and provide a wide array of beneficial microorganisms, bacteria and fungi directly to their plants. You can even buy a portable compost tea sprayer that fits to your body like a backpack and transport your compost tea all throughout your garden or farm. Regardless of how you use your compost tea, you will reap the benefits of it in your garden, farm or orchard (just don’t drink it!)
Remove your garden pests with one application of our patented bug killing solution. Hate bugs in your garden? We hate them even more, this is why you need our ultimate pesticide that will protect your fruits, vegetables, trees and flowers from any and all forms of bug life. These are some of the ads that we see for pesticides or lawn sprays, in an exaggerated form of course. The not exaggerated part is that we have come to detest bug life in our soil and our dislike for bugs is also killing the life in our soil. Like it or not, bugs are part of a healthy soil food web and we need them in order to have healthy soil.
Bug life is a part of a healthy ecosystem. Yes there are bugs that will eat your vegetables, fruits and flowers and this is natural and normal. What is not natural and normal is an outbreak of one or two types of bugs in your garden. These outbreaks tend to be happen because your soil does not have a healthy soil food web.
What is a healthy soil food web? A healthy soil food web means that your soil is the home for millions of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes. It means that your soil has bugs like worms, ants, spiders, praying mantises, aphids, earwigs, bees, ladybugs, pill bugs and a host of other bugs. It also means that your soil plays host to all different varieties of birds, squirrels and higher level predators.
Spiders are a gardener’s best friend — they will never go after anything that you are growing and they survive by eating the bugs that will eat your plants. Colorado potato beetles on the other hand are a potato growers nightmare. If Colorado potato beetles start multiplying in your garden or on your farm and you don’t have bugs like spiders, ladybugs and lacewings in your garden to control the Colorado potato beetle population then it is likely that an outbreak of Colorado potato beetles will happen and there is a good chance that you will lose your potato crops before they even start to produce.
There are so many other bugs that are beneficial and necessary in your soil. Earthworms help to break down plant material into usable organic materials and then poop out the usable materials so that the soil and your plants can access these materials to help them grow. Ground beetles live on a diet of slugs, caterpillars and cutworms and without having ground beetles in your soil there is a good chance that you eventually will get an outbreak of either slugs, caterpillars or cutworms, all of which love to feast on your plants. At the same time ground beetles will not be in your soil if they don’t have any food, so they actually need slugs, caterpillars and cutworms to survive. There is even a bug known as aphid midge. Aphid midges eat aphids and if you don’t allow different species of good bugs to survive then it is very easy to get an outbreak of bad bugs in your garden or farm.
Bad bugs (the ones that will eat your vegetables, flowers and fruit) are brilliant, they know when there is food for them and over time they flock to available food sources. If you don’t have a colony of good bugs to protect your crops then the population of the bad bugs will grow until they have reached a critical mass and you will start to see the bad bugs attacking your plants. Life is interconnected, beneficial bugs need predatory bugs, predatory bugs need food.
The interconnectedness of life is something that we should not mess with and this is why I am so strongly for organic gardening and farming methodologies. Pesticides are impartial, they kill both good bugs and bad bugs, which may sound great to you and the bag bugs will eventually adapt to the pesticides and become immune to them. By the time that the bad bugs have become immune to the pesticides, you are in big trouble as you will not have a colony of good bugs in place to protect the flowers, vegetables and fruit that you are growing.
Birds also do a fantastic job at killing bugs and if there is no food for a bird to eat because pesticides have been sprayed that killed the bug life that they need to survive, then birds will flock elsewhere and kill bug life elsewhere. So, by choosing organic methodologies and building a strong soil food web, you can naturally avert outbreaks of bad bugs and also create an ecosystem that supports good bugs like earthworms and pill bugs (pill bugs do a tremendous job at breaking down dead material in your soil and making it available for plants to use) which prevent bug outbreaks.
Replace your lawn with native plants to save money, time and energy
In my work with homeowners to create the gardens of their dreams, I have been dealing with a lot of lawns that homeowners want me to find solutions for. I have been asked to remove weeds and mushrooms from my clients lawns, plant grass seeds and design solutions to make people’s lawns more useful and I have seen that it takes a lot of work and resources to take care of your lawn, a decent amount of space and large amounts of regular watering to keep a lawn looking good. All of which is completely unproductive and costly as my clients also regular hire lawn care companies and pay anywhere between $360 and $1200 a year on to have someone come in and take care of their lawns. I would like to propose a different solution for your front yard – plant native plants.
Yes a beautifully manicured and well kept lawn looks nice and lawns are a huge drain of time, energy and money to keep up and in the grand scheme of things are completely unproductive. So why do people have grass in their lawns? Keeping up with the Joneses is a factor as the homeowners that I have worked with feel a certain pressure to have beautifully manicured grass lawns so they can match their neighbors homes and look good. Here’s the kicker though, according to a NASA study, American lawns are the largest single crop in the U.S. (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/lawn-largest-crop-america_n_55d0dc06e4b07addcb43435d). This means that more eland is devoted to grass lawns than to food production, which is absurd.
Lawns also seem easy to take care of as all you need to do is mow them (or hire someone to mow them), water them and sit back and relax and there are a lot of hidden costs to taking care of your lawn. Lawnmowers are powered by gasoline, need fertilizer to grow (most of which is derived from gasoline or gasoline by products) and require huge amounts of water to maintain. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that 9 billion gallons of water per day are used on lawns alone (https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-stop-mowing-your-lawn-20150805-story.html). So why not divert your time and energy away from taking care of your lawn.
Well thankfully there is a solution, planting native plants has been shown to have be extremely beneficial in a number of ways. Native plants are uniquely adapted to the climate that you live in, which means that they will naturally grown in your environment without needing the copious amounts of water, the large amount of work and the investment that comes in maintaining your lawn. Native plant gardens comes with a whole host of other benefits, which includes increasing biodiversity in your region, creating bird, butterfly and pollinator habitats, conserve water and can remove carbon dioxide from the air and store the carbon dioxide that they take in (https://www.audubon.org/content/why-native-plants-matter).
Native plants stand out in your front yard and provide a stunning array of colors, species and many different types of habitats from shrubs, to flowers to trees and bushes. Many native plants are perennials that can live for decades with the proper care, can survive long winters and hot summers without extensive care, are often drought-resistant and even help eliminate weeds by growing in dense groupings (http://grownative.org/why-use-native-plants/).
When you think about it, native plants make a lot of sense for homeowners, schools and gardens. The benefits far outweigh the benefits of having a lawn and if you are not ready to fully give up your lawn, then you can devote a part of your lawn to native plants and still receive some of the benefits of native plants.
Michael Forman is the Founder of Pure Love Sustainability Inc. He works with homeowners to help create the gardens of their dreams, solve garden problems and teaches homeowners how to grow their own food in their backyard. Michael can help you to get rid of your yard and create a native plant garden that can provide all of these benefits. If you are interested in ditching your lawn and planting a native garden, submit a contact from on Pure Love Sustainability Inc’s website
Development and loss of farmland throughout the United States is going to wreck havoc on our food system. Yes we need to create new acres of organic, sustainable produce farmland in the U.S. and yes we need to make farming a profitable venture once again and yes we need small, local farmers who are producing food for their local communities and I posit that we also need as many people as possible growing their own food in their backyards. The resiliency of our food system is being challenged right now, even though you may not feel the effects of it at this moment.
Loss of farmland is a huge factor in why our local food systems are being threatened. According to the American Farmland Trust’s Farms Under Threat Initiative, the U.S. lost 31,000,000 acres of farmland from 1992 – 2012 and 11,000,000 of those acres were among the best farmland in the nation—classified as the most productive, most versatile and most resilient land. If we keep on losing land at these rates, our food prices are bound to go up and the amount of food that we produce as a country will go down.
It’s the same story with development, farmers are choosing to sell their land to real estate developers to cash in for their retirements. Another reason why farmers are selling their land is because their families do not want to go into farming and look for more glamorous jobs that pay better and allow them to lead a more comfortable lifestyle. So if we do not have enough farmers in the country and we cannot grow enough food to feed our population then we are going to have to start importing food from other countries, which will increase food prices and will impact our local economy
With these two factors in play, what are we to do to ensure that our local food systems stay strong and to ensure that we are continuing to grow food for our local communities?
Starting your own garden and growing your own food is the solution and I believe that this is a new path that will solve food insecurity, provide a huge boost to the local economy and make sure that our food systems will not be interrupted by development and the loss of farmland. If we are all growing our own food, then our local food system will be optimized. In a working local food system homeowners will grow enough food to take care of their needs and any excess food that a homeowner grows can be sold or bartered with neighbors.
If you are looking to contribute to your local food system, start your own garden. If you need guidance and support to grow your own food, because it can be challenging, then request a consultation. Heck I can even hold a consultation with you virtually as long as your are in your garden space and can show me your garden space via Skype or FaceTime. Click on this link to request a consultation or send me an email at: email@example.com